Officials with the locally operated Transwestern Pipeline Company entered into a settlement this week with the state’s environmental department over air violations in the summer of 2001.
Transwestern compresses natural gas for transmission through a pipeline at a compressor station located five miles northwest of Portales in Roosevelt County.
As part of the settlement, Transwestern will pay the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) $95,000 for using a high-powered gas turbine engine without an air quality permit, according to a press release from the NMED.
The high-powered engine initially replaced a lower-powered model, but officials with Transwestern failed to replace permits, according to NMED Communications Director Jon Goldstein.
The station emits several materials which contribute to ozone pollution — sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide — and are known to cause asthma, especially in children.
The NMED must evaluate any new or modified operation to assure ambient concentrations don’t reach levels that will affect public health, the release stated.
“Environmental regulations, including permitting and notice requirements, serve a very important purpose,” NMED Secretary Ron Curry said. “They protect us from substances that pose serious health risks. We will continue to take strong enforcement actions whenever necessary to ensure that these regulations are followed.”
A public relations specialist with Transwestern did not immediately return a phone call Friday seeking comment, nor did officials at the local station.
Goldstein said he is unaware if any health problems have occurred from the incident.
“Air pollution can have a chronic, long-lasting impact on people’s health,” Goldstein said. “Sometimes things don’t turn up until years later — heart disease, lung disease that kind of stuff.”
“I think we got the best conclusion out of this case that we could.”
The civil penalty of $95,000 must be paid to NMED within 20 days of the settlement, the release stated. If Transwestern officials fail to meet the deadline interest will be charged at a rate established by state law.